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Thursday’s slate and what to watch

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Yet another day of watching college basketball all day. This is the sport’s holiday gift to us.

So what shouldn’t you miss tonight? Plenty. And good luck to those of you on the East Coast. The late, late games may be the best of the night.

(All times ET; TV info courtesy of HDSportsGuide.com)

Missouri vs. Illinois at St. Louis, Mo., 9 p.m. (ESPN2)
Though let’s start with this, one of the few rivalry games on the slate, featuring two teams with combined records of 22-1. But those records are a little deceiving. The Illini aren’t in Missouri’s class, mostly because the two are polar opposites on offense – only Florida boats a more efficient offense than the Tigers – while Illinois’ defense is its calling card. We’ll see if Mizzou’s overwhelming edge at guard is too much for Illinois to withstand.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
What to make of these Tigers? Loaded with talent, but unable to beat a marquee team, this could be their best chance. They already lost once to Georgetown this season, but it was an overtime thriller and the Hoyas (9-1) have done little to test themselves since. Maybe this is finally the point Memphis plays a little defense.

Florida State at Florida, 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Unstoppable force (Florida’s offense) meets immovable object (Florida State’s defense). Buckle up.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8 p.m. (Action3News)
Action3News is an Omaha station. If you can dial it up, do it. The odds of Doug McDermott staging an epic shootout with Northwestern’s John Shurna is pretty high. In fact, the odds of seeing an all-offense, no-defense are better than Kim Kardashian hooking up with an athlete in the next month.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m. (FSN)
The Cardinal (10-1) should dominate this game. Butler’s offense will have issues scoring against a solid defense and it’s the last of what’s been a trying non-conference schedule for the Bulldogs (5-7). Then again, Butler had no business beating Purdue, either.

Baylor vs. St. Mary’s in Las Vegas Invite, 10 p.m. (ESPN3)
The first of two potentially fantastic games. St. Mary’s (10-1) hasn’t played much of a schedule yet, but the Gaels have what Baylor doesn’t – guards who know how to run an offense. Plus, St. Mary’s frontcourt is actually a little underrated. The Bears (10-0) should feast on the boards with their massive frontline, but I bet the Gaels’ rebounding keeps this one close. And if it’s close, I like their odds if Matthews Dellavedova gets a chance at the final shot.

Long Beach State vs. Xavier in Diamond Head Classic, 11 p.m. (ESPNU)
Last one. And it’s a good one. LBS has played the nation’s second-toughest non-conference schedule, and this marks the end of a long, trying stretch to prepare for Big West play. The 49ers get the added benefit of facing a depleted Xavier team, too. Starting guard Mark Lyons and wing Dezmine Wells are still sitting for suspensions earned during their brawl against Cincinnati, which leaves Tu Holloway to do all the heavy lifting – and try to slow down Casper Ware. Xavier (8-1) was a mess in it s last game, a 22-point loss to Oral Roberts. Holloway’s back, but LBS is a far superior foe. Who knows what to expect here?

EAST

Drexel at Binghamton, 7 p.m.

Bucknell at Boston U., 7 p.m.

La Salle at CCSU, 7 p.m.

Texas St. at Fordham, 7 p.m.

James Madison at George Washington, 7 p.m.

Memphis at Georgetown, 7 p.m.

FAU at Harvard, 7 p.m.

Colgate at Hofstra, 7 p.m.

San Francisco at Holy Cross, 7 p.m.

Rider at Monmouth (NJ), 7 p.m.

Niagara at Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

Princeton at Siena, 7 p.m.

Tulane at Syracuse, 7 p.m.

Fairfield at UConn, 7 p.m.

Davidson at UMass, 7 p.m.

American U. at Villanova, 7 p.m.

Loyola of Chicago at Canisius, 7:30 p.m.

NJIT at Rutgers, 7:30 p.m.

Texas-Arlington at St. Peter’s, 7:30 p.m.

SOUTH

Loyola (Md.) at Kentucky, 1 p.m.

Mount St. Mary’s at Savannah St., 6 p.m.

Campbell at Appalachian St., 7 p.m.

Coll. of Charleston at Coastal Carolina, 7 p.m.

Gardner-Webb at East Carolina, 7 p.m.

Florida St. at Florida, 7 p.m.

Georgia Southern at Georgia St., 7 p.m.

Mercer at Georgia Tech, 7 p.m.

Delaware at Howard, 7 p.m.

Northeastern at NC State, 7 p.m.

VMI at Old Dominion, 7 p.m.

Navy at Presbyterian, 7 p.m.

VCU at UNC Greensboro, 7 p.m.

E. Michigan at Virginia Tech, 7 p.m.

Toledo at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:05 p.m.

Miami at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Bowling Green at FIU, 7:30 p.m.

Northwestern St. at Mississippi St., 8 p.m.

South Florida at Southern Miss., 8 p.m.

UTSA at Troy, 8 p.m.

Jacksonville at UAB, 8 p.m.

MIDWEST

UMBC at Indiana, 6 p.m.

Bradley at Michigan, 6:30 p.m.

Sam Houston St. at Cleveland St., 7 p.m.

Alabama St. at Detroit, 7 p.m.

Cent. Michigan at Wright St., 7 p.m.

Robert Morris at Youngstown St., 7:05 p.m.

Idaho at Green Bay, 8 p.m.

N. Dakota St. at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Arkansas St. at Saint Louis, 8 p.m.

North Dakota at W. Illinois, 8 p.m.

Northwestern at Creighton, 8:05 p.m.

Boise St. at Iowa, 8:30 p.m.

Miami (Ohio) at Ohio St., 8:30 p.m.

Milwaukee at Marquette, 9 p.m.

Lehigh at Michigan St., 9 p.m.

Illinois at Missouri, 9 p.m.

SOUTHWEST

NC Central at Prairie View, 7:30 p.m.

Louisiana Tech at Arkansas, 8 p.m.

LSU at North Texas, 8 p.m.

Dallas Christian at SMU, 8 p.m.

Grambling St. at TCU, 8 p.m.

Rice at Texas A&M, 8 p.m.

Texas Tech at Oral Roberts, 8:05 p.m.

FAR WEST

Bethune-Cookman vs. Texas A&M-CC at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 3 p.m.

South Alabama at San Diego, 5 p.m.

Tennessee Tech vs. Kennesaw St. at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 5:30 p.m.

Bryant at Arizona, 7 p.m.

Elon at San Diego St., 7:30 p.m.

Missouri St. vs. West Virginia at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 8 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara at BYU, 9 p.m.

Texas Southern at Colorado, 9 p.m.

The Citadel at Denver, 9 p.m.

Air Force at Gonzaga, 9 p.m.

Utah Valley at Montana, 9 p.m.

UMKC at New Mexico, 9 p.m.

UC Davis at S. Utah, 9 p.m.

Butler at Stanford, 9 p.m.

Utah at Weber St., 9 p.m.

Wyoming at Idaho St., 9:05 p.m.

Colorado St. at N. Colorado, 9:05 p.m.

Pacific at CS Bakersfield, 10 p.m.

Portland at Nevada, 10 p.m.

Stephen F. Austin at Oregon, 10 p.m.

Hope International at UC Irvine, 10 p.m.

San Jose St. at UC Riverside, 10 p.m.

CS Northridge at Washington, 10 p.m.

Pepperdine at Washington St., 10 p.m.

Portland St. at Cal St.-Fullerton, 10:05 p.m.

SE Missouri at Sacramento St., 10:05 p.m.

Kent St. at Utah St., 10:05 p.m.

Saint Mary’s (Cal) vs. Baylor at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, 10:30 p.m.

Kansas at Southern Cal, 11 p.m.

TOURNAMENTS

Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic

At Honolulu

First Round

UTEP vs. Clemson, 2:30 p.m.

Kansas St. vs. S. Illinois, 5 p.m.

Long Beach St. vs. Xavier, 11 p.m.

Auburn at Hawaii, 1:30 a.m.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Swanigan staying for sophomore season

Purdue's Vince Edwards (12), Purdue's Caleb Swanigan (50) and Purdue's A.J. Hammons (20) celebrate during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against the Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Friday, March 11, 2016, in Indianapolis. Purdue won 89-58. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Purdue will once again be rolling out a formidable frontcourt in the 2016-17 season.

Boilermaker big man Caleb Swanigan is withdrawing from the NBA Draft to return to West Lafayette for his sophomore season, the school announced Wednesday.

The NBA is right there and always will be,” Swanigan said in the school’s press release, “but you always have to have patience and do what’s best for you.”

Purdue is losing 7-foot senior A.J. Hammons, but will be once again teaming Swanigan with Isaac Haas (7-2) and Vince Edwards (6-8) that will allow them to roll out a supersized lineup that is sure to be a difficult one to face off against.

The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Swanigan, who likely would have landed as a second-round pick, averaged 10.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists and was a finalist for the Wayman Tisdale Award for the country’s top freshman.

“We are excited that (Swanigan) has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Purdue,” head coach said Matt Painter in a statement released by the school. “He has the potential to make a huge jump from his freshman season and will be a big part of what we do next year. He received great experience going through this process and will use the feedback he received to make him a more diverse player.”

Purdue is probably a rung down from Michigan State and Wisconsin at the top of the league, but the return of Swanigan pulls them closer to competing at the top of the league next season.

USC’s Nikola Jovanovic not expected to return to USC

Southern California forward Nikola Jovanovic pauses on the court during an NCAA college basketball game against Washington State, Friday, Jan. 1, 2016, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Nikola Jovanovic’s college career has come to a close.

The USC center will not withdraw his name from NBA Draft consideration by Wednesday’s 11:59 p.m., a source confirmed to NBCSports.com. Jovanovic, a 6-foot-11 Serbian, averaged 12.3 points and 7.0 boards as a junior with the Trojans.

Jovanovic is not expected to be drafted, which means that Andy Enfield’s club will be losing two players to the professional ranks with eligibility to spare that likely won’t end up on an NBA roster next season. Julian Jacobs, who averaged 11.6 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 boards, signed with an agent back in April.

The Trojans were a top 25 team last season despite many considering them to still be “a year away”. But with two starters departing, the Trojans will be a borderline preseason top 25 team as opposed to a top 15 team.

Marcus Lee withdrawing from the draft, transferring from Kentucky

Kentucky forward Marcus Lee dunks during the first half of a second-round men's college basketball game against Indiana in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
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For the second time this season and just the sixth time in John Calipari’s tenure at Kentucky, the Wildcats are losing a player to transfer.

Marcus Lee announced on Wednesday that he will be withdrawing from the NBA Draft, but the 6-foot-9 forward will not be returning to Kentucky. He will be transferring out of the program to a new school.

“I want to thank the University of Kentucky, the basketball staff and the Big Blue Nation for supporting me over the years,” Lee said. “I’m sorry it took me so long to come to this decision, but I’m trying to do what’s right for me and my family. I’ll always think fondly of my time at Kentucky.”

Lee averaged 6.4 points and 6.0 boards this season, seeing his first major minutes as a member of the Wildcats. But he seemed destined for a bench role if he had opted to return to Kentucky this season as John Calipari has landed a recruiting class that includes five-star freshmen Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones.

The tough part?

It does not appear that Lee will be able to finish his degree and be eligible to play immediately next season. He’ll have to sit a year at whatever school he opts to transfer to.

“Marcus Lee informed us today that he is pulling his name out of the draft but has decided he is going to transfer to a school out west to be closer to his family,” head coach John Calipari said. “We talked it through together and discussed the team next season, which he said had no bearing on his decision. I also told him he was a semester away from graduating. With that said, he was still adamant that, after the combine experience, a year off and regrouping would be the best thing. As always I support my players and their decisions.”

Lee joins Charles Matthews as members of last year’s Wildcats that are transferring out of the program. Darnell Dodson (Southern Miss), Stacey Poole (Georgia Tech) , Ryan Harrow (Georgia State) and Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga) are the other four players that have transferred.

Isaiah Briscoe to return to Kentucky

Eric Johnson, Isaiah Briscoe
(AP Photo/James Crisp)
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Isaiah Briscoe announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season.

The 6-foot-3 guard had one of the more difficult decisions to make for players in this year’s draft class. On the one hand, there was a very real chance that he would go through this draft without getting picked. He was a role-playing guard on last year’s team that isn’t a point guard, isn’t big enough to be a two-guard and was a total liability shooting the ball.

But he’s returning to a team that is as loaded as the group that won their first 38 games two years ago, particularly in the back court. He’ll be playing behind De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk who both play essentially the same role that Briscoe does: playmaking guards that thrive with the ball in their hands. And since Briscoe can’t shoot, he may not be the best option at the three, where Derek Willis will likely see minutes.

In other words, Briscoe returning to school is essentially a two-year decision.

Kentucky now awaits an announcement from Marcus Lee on whether or not he will be returning to school.

James Blackmon Jr. to return to Indiana, Troy Williams to remain in draft

James Blackmon Jr.
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
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James Blackmon Jr. will be returning to Indiana for his junior season, the school announced on Wednesday morning.

Blackmon missed the final 22 games of his sophomore season following surgery on his knee in December. As a freshman, Blackmon averaged 15.8 points and shot 46 percent from beyond the arc.

Indiana now awaits word on the decision that will be made by Troy Williams. A junior swingman, Williams has a shot to be an early second round pick if he opts to stay in the draft. There is a report from the Indy Star that he will keep his name in the draft, but the program has yet to confirm that news.

Losing Williams would hurt, but it’s a loss that Indiana can overcome. The emergence of O.G. Anunoby as a versatile defender means that the Hoosiers have a guy that can be a defensive stopper and can allow them to play small and fast. Anunoby also has not proven to be prone to bouts of poor decision-making, which arguably may make him a better fit.